Over a 37-day span, Valeriano Racing Stables’ Chance To Excel scored three of the most impressive victories by a juvenile this year at Los Alamitos Race Course to leave no doubt that he is the West Coast’s top freshman Quarter Horse right now. The exclamation point to his streak of domination came on Father’s Day, as the son of the great stallion Favorite Cartel posted a convincing ¾ length victory as the 6-5 favorite in the Grade 1, $1,115,000 Ed Burke Million Futurity here on Sunday night.
Ridden by Jose Nicasio for trainer Monty Arrossa, Chance To Excel was in third place at the start of the Ed Burke Million after leaving from post number one. He took command shortly after that and after battling for the lead with Parsons Family Limited Partnership’s Terrific Temper and Balgo Racing Team’s La Jaconde, Chance To Excel pulled away in the final 100 yards to win California’s first million dollar horse race of the year.
Purchased for $45,000 at the Los Alamitos Equine Sale from the Ed Allred consignment, Chance To Excel has been amazing since arriving to Arrossa’s barn after a fifth place finish in his debut. Under Arrossa’s watch, Chance To Excel broke his maiden by 1 ¾ lengths on May 16 before posting a monster victory in the trials in which he recorded the fastest 350-yard clocking by a 2-year-old at Los Alamitos since June of 2014. Chance To Excel won his trial in :17.317, a clocking that he would not be able to outperform in the Burke Million final. Yet, the reward was greater in the final, as his solid winning time of :17.439 led to lucrative earnings of $451,500. A winner in three of four starts, Chance To Excel is now the nation’s leading money winner with $458,515.
This was also Arrossa’s first ever victory in a million dollar futurity.
“The last couple of years we’ve been fortunate to qualify to the Ed Burke Million, the Golden State Million and the Los Alamitos Two Million,” said Arrossa. “The best we had done was a third in the Golden State Million. I dedicate this win to my dad, Pete Arrossa. I lost my dad five years ago. That is really what prompted me, pushed me to come to Los Alamitos. My dad always used to say that life is short. When I lost him, I decided that it was the time to come here. Happy Father’s Day, dad.”
Arrossa is having a career year. He is currently the country’s leading Quarter Horse trainer in wins with 39 and in earnings with $1,573,875. In addition to Chance To Excel, his barn also features Debbie Schauf Remington Park Championship winner Dexxter, Heritage Place Derby winner Inaugurator and Oklahoma Futurity winner Aint She Tempting. Dexxter, Inaugurator and Aint She Tempting are currently in the top 20 in earnings.
“I’m having a fantastic year,” Arrossa admitted. “Dexxter is at Ruidoso right now. We’re going to run him in the All American Gold Cup. Aint She Tempting, we are giving her some time off in Oklahoma. She is not in (in a futurity) until the Golden State Million Futurity. Inaugurator is in Ruidoso. I think we’ll wait until the All American Derby trials with him.
“One thing I’ve really been blessed with is a fantastic crew. We sent a couple of our grooms from here to Ruidoso. I hired Jed Vane, who is a long time Utahn that was a chariot racer friend, and he is running my operation there. Ramiro Fregoso has worked for me for 20 years and he runs my Idaho operation. I have just been really blessed with great teams everywhere.”
Arrossa has fast horses as well led by Chance To Excel.
“After we got him, we spent a lot of extra time with him at the racetrack,” Arrossa said. “He was a little bit scared of the pony horse at first. We took a lot of extra time with him at the track and at the gate. We spent a lot of one on one time with him. Just before we ran him in the maiden race, Jose Nicasio said “this horse has matured so much. He’s ready.” You never know until it happens, but he showed he was ready.”
Chance To Excel delivered in the Ed Burke Million final.
“I could see that they were bunched up in the middle and that we had a clear shot out there,” said Arrossa about the race “I felt pretty good as we got away from the gate. We will give him a bit of a break and point him to the Golden State Million Futurity. He likes the track here. He does well here. It’s his fourth race. I don’t think he’s tired by any means, but horses only have so many good outs. We have to do what we can to protect his good outs.”
When asked about the possibility of him winning the 2020 AQHA Blane Schvaneveldt Champion Trainer Award, Arrossa talked about what he is thinking the most about right now.
“I am focused on my four horses in Pocatello on Wednesday night,” he said. “I look at Pocatello next Wednesday, what I have running here next weekend, and in a few weeks about the couple I have in the Rainbow trials. I just take it day by day.”
And what about a matchup between his two futurity winners, Chance To Excel and Aint She Tempting, in the Golden State Million Futurity in November?
“They’re real similar horses,” Arrossa said. “She’s a little more mature. She had her mind on running right away. It would be a good matchup between them.”
For now, Arrossa will just look to excel one race at a time.
As for jockey, Jose Nicasio, the young pilot completed his own personal sweep of the million dollar futurities at Los Alamitos. He won the Golden State Million and Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity with J Fire Up in 2017 and can now add the Ed Burke to his list of career highlights.
“I won the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity and the Golden State Million Futurity so I needed this race to complete the triple,” he said. “I ran second in the Ed Burke Million once. Tonight, it was my turn.”
Nicasio was confident that he was sitting on the right horse.
“He ran an excellent race. Right from the gate, he did his job. He is an outstanding horse. He is a professional. He behaved perfectly in the starting gate. He did not make any mistakes. I am blessed. He was focused in the warm-ups and I thought that was a great sign. He did his job. He did not move at all before the start. He was just so attentive before the race.”
The Ed Burke Million was a Nicasio exacta, as Jose’s older brother, Eduardo Nicasio, piloted Terrific Temper to a solid runner-up effort in the Ed Burke Million. Trained by reigning AQHA Champion Trainer Chris O’Dell, the Tempting Dash filly earned $182,750 for her runner-up effort in this race. Winless in three career starts, Terrific Temper was trying to become the first maiden to win the Ed Burke Million since 2010.
“She’s a pretty good filly to run three seconds in a row,” O’Dell said. “She might be tough in a maiden race. We are very pleased with her. If we could not win, second is the next best thing. She has run three times in six weeks. I don’t know what we’ll do next right now.”
Ridden by Oscar Peinado for trainer Jaime Gomez, La Jaconde earned $129,000 for finishing third. The Favorite Cartel filly was looking to become only the 12th juvenile to win both the Robert Adair Kindergarten Futurity Million and Ed Burke Million. Coronas Big Flash, Thats R Best Card, SC Divas Cartel Man, Jess Lyndes Reason, Strange Fellow, Jess Paint Me and BF Outfoosed completed the field.